November 25, 2016

SpaceX to Launch Twice in December? (Source: Advanced Television)
SpaceX, still suffering from a September 1st fireball catastrophe that destroyed an Israeli-owned satellite, is reported to be readying two rockets for launch in December. One Falcon 9 rocket has been delivered to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Prime candidate for this particular launch would be the Iridium communications fleet of 10 satellites and much delayed and needed by the operator. The launch has already been postponed from July and September.

The other rocket is reportedly being tested at SpaceX’s McGregor test facility in Texas, ahead of being shipped to Cape Canaveral (launch pad 39A). Pad 39A has been refurbished by SpaceX while the nearby Pad 40 is being repaired following the explosion in September. This launch could be the – also much delayed – EchoStar 23 satellite. Local reports from Florida suggest that it could be as late as December 30th before the Cape Canaveral launch takes place. (11/24)

EchoStar Expects Jan. 8 or 9 SpaceX Launch, Confronts Brazil and EU Deadlines (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator EchoStar Corp. on Nov. 23 said its EchoStar 23 tri-band telecommunications satellite for Brazil is expected to launch Jan. 8 or Jan. 9 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

The launch will follow the Falcon 9’s anticipated December launch, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, of 10 Iridium Communications satellites into low Earth orbit. The Iridium launch will mark SpaceX’s return to flight following the Sept. 1 explosion of a Falcon 9 as it was being fueled in advance of a static test fire. (11/24)

ViaSat and O3b Could Clash in Medium Orbit (Source: Space News)
Two satellite companies that currently operate in different orbits could clash in medium Earth orbit. ViaSat, which operates satellites in geostationary orbit, filed an application with the FCC last week for a system of 24 satellites in medium Earth orbit at an inclination of 87 degrees.

The satellites would be at the same altitude at the system currently operated by O3b, whose satellites are in equatorial orbits. O3b filed three applications with the FCC last week as well to add additional satellites and frequencies to its equatorial system, and also to develop a 16-satellite system at a similar altitude, but at an inclination of 70 degrees. (11/23)

With Hillary Out of the Way, Right-Wing and Fake News Writers Target Elon (Source: QZ)
Fake news galvanized US president-elect Donald Trump’s supporters, and sullied his enemies. Now it may be Elon Musk’s turn. The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has his fair share of detractors, but a new era in a public relations battle to discredit him appears to be taking shape. Bloomberg reports that hard-right groups are lining up to back misleading websites and fake journalists who attack Musk’s business empire.

Many of the attacks on Musk begin with something factual: His businesses were built, legally, with the help of billions in government contracts and incentives for renewable energy and space transport. But they go on to accuse Musk of fraud and wasting taxpayer dollars; some compare him to a convicted felon. At least three conservative sites have run negative pieces about Musk—by a nonexistent writer named “Shepard Stewart”—that include “Elon Musk Continues to Blow Up Taxpayer Money With Falcon 9” and “Elon Musk: Faux Free Marketeer and National Disgrace.” Two later retracted the stories. (11/23)

Time to Take Out the Space Trash (Source: BBC)
Scientists are warning there’s now so much space debris in low-Earth orbit that action needs to be taken. Next year, a new mission plans to boldly go where no refuse collection has gone before. Click here. (11/24)

Do Solar Neutrinos Affect Nuclear Decay on Earth? (Source: Physics World)
Further evidence that solar neutrinos affect radioactive decay rates on Earth has been put forth by a trio of physicists in the US. While previous research looked at annual fluctuations in decay rates, the new study presents evidence of oscillations that occur with frequencies around 11 and 12.5 cycles per year. The latter oscillation appears to match patterns in neutrino-detection data from the Super-Kamiokande observatory, in Japan. Other physicists, however, are not convinced by the claim.

The idea of fluctuating beta-decay rates is very controversial because for more than 80 years, radioactive substances have been thought to follow a fixed exponential decay, under all conditions. In recent years, however, there have been suggestions that decay rates are not constant and are influenced by the Sun. In 2009, physicists from Purdue University in Indiana published a paper discussing unexplained annual fluctuations in long-term measurements of decay rates of silicon-32 and chlorine-36. (11/24)

Britain Endorses ESA, Promises Increased Export-Credit Support for Industry (Source: Space News)
The British government has emphatically endorsed its investment in the 22-nation European Space Agency and rejected a parliamentary proposal that its space budget be more evenly divided between ESA and a national program. Countering the centrifugal trend in Europe — highlighted by the U.K. decision to quit the European Union — the government reaffirmed that Brexit will have no effect on the UK role in ESA. (11/25)

Spaceport America’s New Director Faces a Tough Challenge (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Meet Dan Hicks, Spaceport America’s newest executive director. A month into the job, the longtime civilian executive at White Sands Missile Range inherits an immense challenge: taking the $218.5 million taxpayer-funded facility and turning it into the self-sustaining success many of its supporters hoped it would be by now. It’s a task that must be accomplished under the pressures of a shrinking state budget, slower-than-expected progress by anchor tenant Virgin Galactic and a hyper-competitive commercial space environment – the pool from which Spaceport aims to draw customers. (11/25)

Trump or NASA – Who’s Really Politicizing Climate Science? (Source: The Conversation)
Climate research conducted at NASA had been “heavily politicized”, said Robert Walker, a senior adviser to US President-elect Donald Trump. This has led him to recommend stripping funding for climate research at NASA. Walker’s claim comes with a great deal of irony. Over the past few decades, climate science has indeed become heavily politicized. But it is ideological partisans cut from the same cloth as Walker who engineered such a polarized situation.

Believe it or not, climate change used to be a bipartisan issue. In 1988, Republican George H.W. Bush pledged to “fight the greenhouse effect with the White House effect”. Since those idealistic days when conservatives and liberals marched hand-in-hand towards a safer climate future, the level of public discourse has deteriorated. Surveys of the US public over the past few decades show Democrats and Republicans growing further apart in their attitudes and beliefs about climate change.

For example, when asked whether most scientists agree on global warming, perceived consensus among Democrats has steadily increased over the last two decades. In contrast, perceived consensus among Republicans has been in stasis at around 50%. How is it that party affiliation has become such a strong driver of people’s views about scientific topics? Click here. (11/25)

Astronauts Enjoy a Zero-Gravity 'Spacegiving' Dinner (Source: Reuters)
An international crew of astronauts celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday with a special 'spacegiving feast' of rehydrated foods on board the International Space Station. NASA published a photograph of the six astronauts enjoying their meal, which included rehydrated turkey, stuffing, potatoes and vegetables. The meal was rounded off with cherry blueberry cobbler for dessert, NASA Commander Shane Kimbrough said in a preview statement made some 200 miles (320 km) from earth on Nov 18. (11/25)

Satellites Confirm Sinking of San Francisco Tower (Source: ESA)
The Sentinel-1 satellites have shown that the Millennium Tower skyscraper in the centre of San Francisco is sinking by a few centimetres a year. Studying the city is helping scientists to improve the monitoring of urban ground movements, particularly for subsidence hotspots in Europe. Completed in 2009, the 58-storey Millennium Tower has recently been showing signs of sinking and tilting. Although the cause has not been pinpointed, it is believed that the movements are connected to the supporting piles not firmly resting on bedrock. (11/25)

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